The Printer and the Preacher

The Printer and the Preacher: Ben Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Surprising Friendship that Invented America (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

For years I loved the story of how Ben Franklin refused to take money when he listened to George Whitefield preach. So compelling was Whitefield’s appeal, Franklin would give. One day after hearing Whitefield preach, an empty-pocketed Franklin asked a bystander for a small loan so Franklin could donate.

Outside of this episode, I had never read much about the intertwining lives of these two men—until this book. The Printer and the Preacher essentially chronicles two overlapping biographies and the tremendous affects their lives had on America. And although they had a great respect for one another and a genuine friendship, it seems uncanny they influenced America more than each other.

  • Franklin, a deist, had no firm belief in Jesus’ divinity nor in His offer of salvation by grace through faith.
  • Whitefield, a theist, embraced both—and preached this good news all over America.

The Printer and the Preacher reads more as history than biography, although one requires the other, and comes off a bit dry. But the volume makes a fascinating observation worth quoting. Randy Petersen writes:

As a nation, we seem to vacillate between Ben and George, skeptic and zealot, the right to doubt and the right to believe. The question in our deeply divided country is how to preserve the freedom to live our a vibrant Christian faith as well as the freedom to choose something different. The relationship between these two forefathers points to an answer . . . George and Ben kept talking and listening.

From a human perspective, these two unlikely lives couldn’t have been more different. The Printer and the Preacher shows how their improbable friendship paved the way for much of what it means today to be American.

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